Sunday, April 04, 2010

Sardinia on holiday

You can feel it here: it’s Easter. Saturday evening, as we popped into a pastry and sweets shop just before closing, I could sense it: the end of a busy baking period. Time to pack up and go home to the family. Everything will be closed tomorrow. It’s a holiday.


By our standards, Sardinia hardly gives the holiday any attention at all. There are no Easter bunnies in store windows, no foil covered chicks, no Easter baskets on display – really, if you're out and about, it’s hardly noticeable. A few small chocolate Easter eggs in the sweets shop. That’s it.

But, oh, you feel that it’s a special day.

Of course, there is also a palpable air of week-end-ness. Of families and friends taking time off from work on a gorgeous spring day.

And it is a gorgeous spring day.


Hard as it is to leave La Lucrezia's garden, we need to get moving: we borrow David and Clara’s country bikes. Meaning, these are the well worn bikes you leave in your country place: the wheels are out of true, the brake pads can’t keep their hands off the rims, the seats tilt, the chains heave. But I’m determined. I have a trip in mind and the bikes fit well into the plan. Ed takes some time to make any possible adjustments to the bikes. I ask Paolo (David’s cousin) for the key to the safety lock.

Oh, I can’t imagine where it is – he says with a shrug.
But how do I leave the bikes for our hike? What if someone takes them?
Oh, that would be wonderful! These guys need to get new bikes! If that happens, just call me, I’ll pick you up.

We set out.Through the village...


And immediately we take a wrong turn. I mean, we’re not really stupid. The sign says Putzu Idu. We want to go to Putzu Idu. Who knew that Putzu Idu is a secondary destination. That really, this is the road to San Giovanni. And along the way you can also make a couple of turns and wind up in Putzu Idu. But don’t kid yourself. Pitzu Idu is an afterthought here. Pitzu Idu is better reached by another road further down.

Who knew.

We start out at a leisurely pace. I proclaim the virtues of biking even as Ed wiggles in his seat. But it is good to be out of the car. To stop frequently without worrying about cars going into ditches. To admire the different growth patterns of grape vines. And of course, the olive trees.




And the lambs: to admire the spring lambs.


The road is very quiet. We amble along enjoying the breeze, the brilliant skies, the gorgeous landscape. But after more than an hour, we seem to be nowhere near Putzu Idu.

We continue pushing (heaving?) at the pedals.

Twenty kilometers later (more than twice the conventional distance) we see it.  Right at the edge of the village is the grocery store. With my name.


We cross over the peninsula on a rough stony road (this is where Ed gets off and walks the bike, claiming that his rear end can only take so many knocks), past trees of gold and tall stalks of fennel, past another crumbling tower (2000 B.C? older?)...



...and finally we see the beaches before us.


We leave our bikes and walk along the coast.

I imagine that this place sees quite the number of summer visitors. I'm told that Sardinia in July and August is unrecognizable. But now, the beaches are nearly empty. A little girl is trying to play soccer with her dad and brother...


Further down, we encounter another group cleaning sea urchins...


And a boat, with two napping Sardinians. (On our return walk, they were in the same spot, still napping.)


We walk along sandstone cliffs, passing by yet another tower...


...and we take in the coastal flora – the fragrant rosemary, the rock plants in gold and burgundy...


Around the bend, we come across a quiet cove. We climb down, take off our shoes and stretch out on the rocks. Ed wades in, looking for sea urchins.



If you were to ask me what defines a peaceful moment, I’d say this: the tranquil hour spent in a private cove, wading through the shallow waters, looking out for sea urchins, and finally reclining on a rock, as the sun warms your back and the nape of your neck. This is the tranquility that I think about when my day is just too full of work.


Later in the evening, as we walk along the quiet main street to our village pizzeria...


....I think about tranquility again. Of a different kind. Where your mind is not racing because you are in the company of others you know and care for. We’re at the local pizza place now, and it is extremely busy. Tables of ten, tables of six, mostly younger people (or at least younger than us).

Next to us there is a small boy. Giacomo. I ask about his age.
Eight months.
Oh! I thought he was younger!
That’s because he has too little hair! – his mother laughs. Of course she would think that! Sardinians have uniformly very dark, full heads of hair.
What a beautiful smile – I comment.
But his cheeks – they are so fat! – she protests, as only the proudest mother could protest. Her sister (at least I think it’s her sister) reaches over to play with Giacomo’s hand. We do this for about three minutes – admire Giacomo’s every move, respond to his every gurgle. Ed watches, amused.

And this scene is replayed again and again. The waitress who is so very busy, will pause for a greeting and will especially pause to smile at a baby. And there are quite the handful of babies and children even as the hour grows very late.

The next day is Easter. Today, many in the village want to forget about cooking. Today we eat pizza.


Easter Sunday will be our last day in Sardinia. In the evening, we'll fly north to Milan and on Monday we make our way through Paris, so that I can be back in Madison by Tuesday. As usual during these complicated return trips, postings will be at a day’s delay. By the time I’ll be writing about Easter here, we’ll be in Paris. By the time I write about Paris, I’ll be back at work in Madison.